Hosted by Sandra Tsing Loh, The Loh Down on Science is a fun way to get your daily dose of science plus a dash of humor in less than two minutes.
Hosted by Sandra Tsing Loh
Airs Weekdays 2:43 and 3:43 a.m.

Pain-Free Family

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Which hurts more—creeping barefoot across a bed of hot coals, or shoving razor sharp knives into your arms?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying:  Neither!  At least for members of certain street-performing family from Pakistan.

All six members were born with the inability to experience pain.  Not even when they perform daredevil feats likehot coal-walking to earn a few rupees.

Geoffrey Wood of Cambridge University discovered why.  A rare mutation in a gene called SCN9A.  It blocks all pain, but not other sensory functions such as the ability to feel temperature, pressure, and tickling.  

Cool, yes, but there's a downside:  In this study, all family members had either bitten off the tip of their tongue or had a serious injuries.  Oddly enough, other mutations in the same gene lead to constant pain in folks with other inherited diseases.  Understanding it could lead to a whole new generation of pain-killing drugs. 

Although for the rest of us, it doesn't take a genius to say hey, take an Advil.  And . . . stop walking on coals!  Ah!  Much better.  Thanks!